San Diego Business Journal

Over 22,000 black-owned businesses contribute to the local economy of San Diego County.

Roughly 95% of them have been shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to data.

In response, the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce launched the “Black Business Relief Grant Fund” on June 10, intended to help black local small business owners affected by the pandemic. So far, it has raised over half of its $1 million goal, according to the organization.

$512,000

Donna DeBerry, president and CEO, said roughly $512,000 has been donated to the fund, of which $72,000 came from more than 400 individual donors. Thirty-seven corporate donors participated as well. The deadline to reach the $1 million goal is Aug. 31 and donations can be made on sdblackchamber.org. Information on attaining a grant can be found on this site as well.

“It has been a great response and refreshing to see San Diego step up this way,” said Bruce Mayberry, chair of the board of directors at the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce. “I would say the most amazing thing to me has been to hear about all of the people that aren’t ‘in the system,’ meaning cash businesses like hair salons and nail places, that weren’t able to get PPP loans or any of the government funded money. Those people had nowhere to turn. For us to be able to step up and help them, it is just phenomenal.”

Mike Fasulo, president and COO of Sony Electronics, which donated to the fund, said programs like the Black Business Relief Grant Fund are vital, not just to the local black community, but for San Diego County as a whole.

“Sony is proud to support the Black Business Relief Grant Fund created by the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce because it directly impacts black owned businesses in our very own San Diego community,” he said. “Until there is sustained equitable access to resources, technical assistant and the many other generational support systems that enable businesses to succeed, programs like the Black Business Relief Grant Fund are vital. Sony is a long-time supporter of the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and is now working through our investment in the Black Business Relief Grant Fund to be an even stronger ally for the black community.”

74% Women-Owned

Of the applicants, 70% were approved for grants, which range from $1,000 to $5,000 totaling $214,000, said Katie Janowiak, vice president of communications & impact at the San Diego Grantmakers, the fiscal agent for the Black Business Relief Grant Fund. That equates to 199 out of 383 applications received in round one out of three, she said, adding that roughly 74% of those are women-owned companies and nearly 40% of first round grantees were child-care centers.

For Janowiak, the grant money is a way to give black business owners a financial boost toward the first step of recovery.

““No small business has been unaffected by the impacts of the global pandemic, and Black businesses have been disproportionately shut out from other forms of relief," she said. "This fund and the technical assistance provided alongside is to stand in solidarity with the vibrant Black business community of San Diego.”

Qualification Requirements

To qualify, candidates must be in business at least one year (and submit proof of business), not have committed a criminal offense at least six months prior to applying for the grant and be of African descent, said DeBerry. Fifty percent of the grant will be awarded to recipients upon approval, she said. The second half will be given once the business owner takes a mandatory, complimentary business development course, through which he/she learns skills like how to manage financial books, how to write up a business plan and how to create a vision board, said DeBerry.

The reason behind this requirement is because the “Black Business Relief Grant Fund” is not solely about providing financial relief to local minority groups, said DeBerry. It is about empowering them with the skills toward sustainable growth and longevity.

“This is a critical time for business owners to really understand how to develop themselves as entrepreneurs,” said DeBerry, adding that in the last three weeks, 300 more applicants have applied. “We are providing business development classes to help businesses pivot and to teach owners how to use social media and the internet to expand their businesses. If there is a time in history for us to step in and help local black-owned businesses grow, this is the time.”

Recipients

And, the recipients of the Black Business Relief Grant Fund are forever indebted.

Stephanie Erazo, owner of Prana Wellness in Pacific Beach and who was awarded a grant from the Black Business Relief Grant Fund, said she plans to use the funds to help with digital efforts.

“My business pivot during COVID has been a challenge,” she said. “I have taken all of my services completely online and have had to change my strategy completely. This grant will allow me to put more focus on digital marketing and producing web content, which are really essential in this moment.”

Renee Stepp, owner of Petcopia, a pet-sitting company headquartered in Vista, said she is not only grateful for the grant, she is thankful for the opportunity to learn more about expanding Petcopia’s footprint.

“My business is totally dependent on folks being able to move around and travel,” she said. “So not only was the pandemic detrimental to my business, my car broke down. I had a new booking without knowing how to get there. I’m so looking forward to learning from (the) advisors.”

Cassandra Schaeg, founder of SIP Wine & Beer in Escondido, also received a grant, and has felt its positive influence on her business.

“Receipt of the Black Business Relief Fund provides additional resources and access to continue operations during this time,” Schaeg said. “Every month in business during the pandemic is touch and go. Receiving funds means I can alleviate a little stress next month when accounts receivables come in.”

Business Development

DeBerry wholeheartedly believes he grant program’s education component will be instrumental in helping grantees continue to grow their businesses – and she has data to back this up.

Through her past positions, like working during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she said she was able to gather statistics that show that small business owners who take a business development class post-crisis are able to stay open an average of two more years. The ones that continued to take the classes year-over-year, she said, were able to grow their businesses significantly, including opening a second location.

“The ones that were given money but weren’t required to take anything, those people lost their businesses within six months,” said DeBerry, who has worked in the diversity and inclusion industry for the likes of Nike, Starbucks and Indeed in the past.

Addressing Inequities

Added Mark Stuart, president and CEO of The San Diego Foundation, another donor: “COVID-19 has impacted our black, Latinx and Native American communities harder than any other. By supporting the Black Business Relief Grant Fund, we aim to help protect jobs, preserve businesses and address inequities that persist throughout our region.”

Cody J. Martinez, chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, also had strong feelings about donating.

“It was important for us to donate to the Black Business Relief Grant Fund for a multitude of reasons. Black-owned businesses have felt devastating financial impacts and have been one of the hardest hit communities throughout this pandemic. During these difficult times, we feel it is our responsibility to come together and support small local businesses any way we can. These grants will help black-owned businesses get the resources they need, so that they can begin their journey on the road to recovery. We look forward to growing our partnership with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and continuing to propel our black business community forward,” he said.